Not of This World

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Cattle drives that we see in movies show the riders driving the cattle. However, sheep are not driven, but led. They know their shepherd and willingly follow Him. Jesus instructed us that His sheep hear and recognize His voice, and that He intimately knows each one of us as we follow Him (John 10:27).

Jesus’ makes us, His sheep, lie down in thick, green pastures; He leads us to clear, clean water to drink; if we go through the shadow of death, He is with us; goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our life; and we will dwell in His house forever (Psalm 23).

However, if we continue to sin, we do not belong to Him (1 John 3:9). When He convicts us of our sin, and shows us that He knows the secrets of our heart, we will either walk away from Him or fall on our face in repentance and worship (1 Corinthians 14:25).

We cannot find eternal life on our own, even by reading God’s Word or by doing good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is only as we trust in the Gospel of Christ, and He knows us in a personal union that we are saved and sealed by His Holy Spirit (Matthew 7:21-23; John 6:27).

Then we are able to trust in Him for our salvation and walk in His ways. We reap His blessings continually and enjoy His presence within us (Colossians 1:27). These spiritual truths allow us to see His divine Truth, such as the fact that we are not of this world, and that Christ in us is our only hope of glory.

When we belong to Jesus, His Spirit replaces in us our sinful attitudes and habits with His spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). God strengthens us in our inner being by His Spirit, and makes known to us the glorious riches of His mysteries (Ephesians 1:12-13, 3:17; John 5:39).

These spiritual truths allow us to see His divine Truth, such as the fact that Christ in us is our only hope of glory. Then we are able to trust in Him for our salvation and walk in His ways. We reap His blessings continually and enjoy His presence within us (Colossians 1:27).

As children of God, we address Him as our “Abba Father,” because He sent the Spirit of His Son into our heart. Even in times of persecution, God’s Spirit within us sustains us and also gives us the words to speak when our beliefs are challenged (Galatians 4:6; Matthew 10:19-20).

Prayer:
Father God, when we accept Your Son, Jesus, as our Savior, we have peace with You and pure fellowship with Christ through Your Spirit (1 John 1:3, 7). We rejoice in the fact that although it is always possible for us to get tangled up in sin again, You give us complete salvation – if we choose to walk in it. You also bless us with freedom from our flesh, the world, and the deception of the devil.

Thank You that if we love You, and obey Jesus’ teachings, then You will love us, and Your Trinity will come and make Your home in us (John 14:20-23). Just as You and Jesus are one, You are in us as well, which make us one with You too. Jesus will return for us, so that we can abide with Your Trinity for eternity (John 14:3, 17:15, 24). Thank You for protecting us from Satan’s lies while we remain on this sin-filled globe, and for giving us Your intimate presence in our heart (John 17:15).

Thought for the Day:
At the moment of our salvation, we are crucified with Christ, and it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in and through us; then during the remainder of the life that we live on this earth, we live by His faith in us, because He loves us and gave Himself for us.
– Galatians 2:20

Saving Faith through Christ

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Even as Christians, we often get an idea in our mind and run with it. We go from one worldly pursuit to the next, collecting human accolades and storing up treasure on this earth. We eventually find our feet far from the path that God designed for our life (Ephesians 2:10).

We are walking in disobedience and completely out of His will. Every sin spawns from one major offense – the sin of unbelief. Unbelief keeps us out of the Kingdom of God on earth, and prevents us from enjoying eternity with God in Heaven (John 3:16-18).

God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to die for us and to justify us by His blood (Romans 5:5-9). He reconciled us to Himself through Jesus, who gave us this same ministry of reconciliation for others (2 Corinthians 5:18).

We inherit an unbelieving heart from Adam and Eve, but we acquire saving faith from Jesus Christ. He presents us holy in His sight, without blemish and free from any accusation that would condemn us for eternity (Colossians 1:22).

Sin also separates us from God’s companionship, which we come to cherish; but restoration is only a humble prayer away. While we were still enemies with God, He saved us from His wrath through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus on earth, who now abides within us (Romans 5:9-10).

God also gave us His Spirit to comfort, guide and teach us all things (John 14:26; 1 John 2:20, 27). When life overwhelms us, and worry robs us of health and God’s peace, God gives us ways to return to the center of His love: praying to God who cares, sharing with a fellow Christian who understands, reading His Word for encouragement, and walking in the Spirit one moment at a time.

Prayer:
Father God, our assurance of our salvation though Jesus works in our hearts and transforms us from children of darkness into children of Light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Then You launch us into the ministry of reconciliation, to bring this same Good News to all of those, which You place in our life (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Help us to take a chance in all of our tomorrows, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with someone we know, or that we meet by Your divine providence. Help us to share our faith with them simply and distinctly, with conviction and joy. Give us Your courage, wisdom and words to reconcile souls to faith in You.

Thought for the Day:
When we were enemies of God, Christ reconciled us to the Father through His death; now He keeps us on a straight and narrow path, because of our enemies; He also surrounds us with His angels, so that we will not stumble or fall.
– Psalm 27:11, 91:11

Recovering from Grief

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We all experience times of grief in this sin-filled life. We reap the consequences of choices that we make, or a choice made by a person of influence over us, and we suffer a loss. We consider this as unfair; and at times, we even blame God for allowing these events to occur.

We grow angry, bitter, skeptical, pessimistic and wary. These attitudes hinder us from finding our way through our grief and healing our inner wounds, especially if we hibernate to our self and meditate on the negative experience that happened to us.

Changing our focus about the event(s), and finding alternative methods of behavior will facilitate a quicker resolution. We never forget the grief, but it no longer hobbles us to the past. Over time, the intensity of the pain can diminish, and we will recover a little more each day.

Fear and remorse from the past will cripple our future, but courageously facing our future will give us the strength to live each current moment with God’s Trinity within us. He has perfect plans for our life, and it makes sense for us to discover them (Ephesians 2:10).

We are a person too, and we can ask God to teach us ways to minister to our needs in the same way that we help others. Serving others brings us joy, as it blesses them, and it lightens the burdens that we all share.

We find JOY by serving:
J-esus
O-thers
Y-ourself.

Focusing on what we lost will only set up a negative spiral of emotions, behavior and events in our future. However, changing our focus to what we still have, as well as to what God provides for us each new day, will strengthen us and give us joy.

Entertaining positive attitudes give us more peace and energy to face the future, especially if we serve God with our whole mind, heart, choices and strength (Mark 12:30). Walking in the center of God’s will for us guarantees our success.

Prayer:
Father God, each day, and especially during times of loss and grief, You always send ministering “angels” into our life to comfort and fortify our soul. Remind us that we can find the fortitude we need to climb out of our pit of despair by reading and meditating on Your Word, fellowshipping with Your Body, and hearing Your Word preached in classes and sermons.

By this, we find answers to our questions, hope for our future, and healing from our past. We find comfort in Your loving presence within us. Our recovery increases our union and deepens our relationship with Your Spirit who abides within us. Weeping may plague us during our darkest hours, but Your joy is always waiting for us in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Thought for the Day:
Some of the alternative activities that we can participate in to relieve our grief are simply common sense. A few we will have no interest in trying, but some of them may peak our interest:
1. Biking, walking, jogging, strolling in nature
2. Adopting a pet, caring for an elderly relative or neighbor, joining a service organization in our area
3. Making a “bucket list” of activities that we always wanted to try and doing one thing at a time
4. Going back to school to finish our degree, pursuing a new career choice, volunteering at community or church outreaches
5. Searching our soul to discover what will help us to positively face each new day
6. Spending concentrated time maturing spiritually and walking in God’s Spirit’s direction for our life

Is Surrender Ever Positive ?

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Our culture constantly encourages us to fight … to fight illnesses, fight social injustices, fight animal abuse or extinction, fight to protect our children like a mother bear, etc. I used to follow this line of reasoning too.

I was the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” who escaped from the Titanic’s fatal fate. I pulled myself up by my “bootstraps” with every trial that occurred in my life. I also fought any circumstance or person that threatened my security or well-being in any way.

I never gave up, and I thought I was achieving something necessary for my survival. My trials kept getting worse, however, and harder to overcome. I was not always successful, and I lost many battles in which I valiantly resisted the evident outcome.

Then, the biggest battle of all occurred in my life. My former husband decided there was no option for us but divorce. There was no changing his mind. I did not hear from him for 18 months after we separated. Our children said he was pursuing his education and dating other people. I did not know how to fight that.

God provided for my every need during this time. He proved Himself to me as a faithful “husband” (Isaiah 54:5). He nurtured and comforted my soul, protected and provided for me physically, gave me His wisdom and grace, and continued to draw my spirit ever closer in intimate fellowship with Him.

I continued to fight defeat in other areas of my life, such as my job situation, my housing arrangements, my lack of a vehicle, etc. I worked three jobs to pay my bills and to save for the inevitable rainy day. Then, I had a car wreck that broke me, not only my body, but my soul as well.

God continued to provide for me by taking away all physical pain from the accident, great insurance that helped to pay the medical bills, and supportive friends and family. With a fragmented body and soul, I sat in the “ash heap” of my life (Job 46:6).

For the first time, I learned that it takes more courage to surrender than to fight. I turned everything in my life over to God. I stopped treading to keep my head above water. I just floated. I let God decide where His currents would take me, and what lay under the surface of the water that would attack me next.

I surrendered totally and completely to my Father God. He started to show me the miracles that He planted in every single trial that I ever experienced – even divorce and a devastating car wreck. This started a whole new adventure for me, an entirely different walk in faith, and a deeper intimacy with God than I ever imagined was possible.

Prayer:
Father God, life is full or troubles and trials, and I finally realized that You use these negative aspects to prove Your love for us. They make us more complete when we surrender totally to Your will. They mature us spiritually when we embrace them, instead of fighting them. We see Your hand in each one, growing our faith in Your faithfulness (Romans 8:28).

Jesus promised that we would have tribulation in this world (John 16:33), but then He encouraged us to be joyful in all things. That sounds like an oxymoron to the human ear, but You taught me that it is actually the recipe for success. Complete surrender to Your will in our life reduces our stress level. Keeping our focus on You, and not on our circumstances, brings us great joy. You always have our best interest in mind, and we trust in You alone.

Thought for the Day:
When we look around at our life, we can get discouraged, but when we focus our thoughts only on the Lord, rather than on our circumstances, we have victory; even if a trial kills us, we still win, because we are immediately in the presence of our God and King.
– Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 5:8

Greater is Christ in Us

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What was true in Biblical times is true now. He who dwells in the hearts of Christians by his Spirit – Jesus, the Christ – is infinitely mightier than the devil who is in this world (1 John 4:4). The devil is merely, “the ruler of the darkness – of this world only” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

It is the devil’s goal to corrupt and destroy the Believer. He is the father of all lies – the deceiver. He wants to terminate us as persons – body, soul, and spirit. He knows when and where we are most vulnerable, and attacks us when we are at our weakest moments.

The good news is that the devil is under God’s control, and God knows we will prove faithful, because of the work that He is doing in us. The devil has limited power – as much control in our life as we, or as God allows. Our victory over all of Satan’s demons and temptations is guaranteed by the blood of Jesus.

In our conflict with sin, temptation, and false teachers, an authentic Christian need never despair, because our God insures us of success by the blood of Jesus, the power in Jesus’ name, and God’s Spirit that abides within us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

For the Believer, Satan can influence our body and soul – which is our mind, will, emotions; but he cannot touch our spirit, because it is already washed and protected by the blood of Jesus. We access this power by dealing with any issues of guilt, fear, self-rejection and unforgiveness that we harbor toward our self, others, or even of God.

When we draw near to God by taking authority in Jesus’ name, and by binding the devil and his demons from our life, they have to flee from us (James 4:7). We take all of our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, casting down our vivid imagination and fantasies, and submitting them to Christ’s control (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Prayer:
Father God, remind us that although we live in the flesh now, we do not need to walk in the flesh or to fight with the flesh. Our battle is not with the flesh, and our weapons are not carnal or finite, but spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Teach us that we are mighty in Christ and can pull down every stronghold that exalts itself against what You teach us in Your Word.

Satan likes to pervert our imagination, influence our emotions and actions, and use us for his purposes. So help us to submit to Your Holy Spirit each moment of the day, and to resist the lies that the devil whispers in our mind, so that He will flee from us (James 4:8). Help us not to give Satan permission to oppress us, and trouble us with his evil spirits, by willfully sinning and forming unholy soul-ties with other people.

Thought for the Day:
If we do not inventory our thoughts and line them up with the Word of God, Satan will enslave our thoughts and use them against us; therefore, we can never grow lax and forget that our battles are won and lost in the recesses of our mind; therefore, we should cooperate as God’s Spirit renews our mind with the mind of Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5, 4:8; Romans 12:2

Beauty from Ashes

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I started life as a reticent, melancholy individual that would sacrifice anything in order to gain my parent’s approval and love. I developed an addiction to pleasing others due to a codependent attitude, and I often ignored my own necessities in order to meet someone else’s needs.

As a teen and young adult, I felt anger toward those who abused me when they were supposed to care for me, anger at God for allowing me to grow up in such a situation, and anger at myself for abandoning myself in the process of trying to earn love and acceptance.

In my mid-life years, I learned that anger is part of the grieving process, and is part of our recovery. Anger at God meant that I truly believed in His existence. I started to use a journal to discover the underlying issues that I needed to face, and from which I needed to heal.

As I grew in my understanding of God’s ways, experience taught me that He answers our prayers in His own timing and way (Jeremiah 29:12-13). He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and He often answers our prayers with a “No,” because to give us what we want would prevent us from receiving all that He has planned for us (Ephesians 2:10).

God gives us beauty from the ashes of our losses, joy from the tears that we shed, and praise in our heart from the heaviness caused by our circumstances in life. He rebuilds our life from the ruins we experienced in our past, repairs the torn fabric of our current existence, and generously supplies all of our needs in the future (Isaiah 61:3-4).

Prayer:
Father God, we humble our self from under Your mighty hand of discipline and trials. We trust that in Your good timing, You will deliver us and lift us up. We give You all of our worries and cares, because we know that You are aware of all of our needs, that You walk through all of our trials with us, and that You will supply for us and nurture us in the midst of all of our concerns.

Teach us to watch out for satanic attacks on our mind, choices and emotions. He is our greatest enemy, and he prowls around tempting us at our most vulnerable times. Help us to stand firm against his assault by teaching us to trust only in You, and not to rely on our human resources (Proverbs 3:5-6). We know that Your Saints around the world are experiencing trials too, and we pray for them as well (1 Peter 5:6-9).

Thought for the Day:
God, our Father, loves us with an everlasting comfort for our heart, and hope for our future that we do not deserve; He helps us as He directs our paths for each new day; therefore, we have no need to feel anxious about our future, since He will take care of us in His own timing and way as we live for Him each moment of our day.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Matthew 6:34

A Good Marriage – Noticing the Little Things

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Over the years of our marriage, we often build up resentment and hold grudges toward one another. We feel more and more irritated over each other’s habits. We take for granted the myriad of blessings our mate showers on us each day, and even stop noticing them or showing gratitude for them.

A woman needs her husband to intimately share his thoughts and feeling with her. A man needs his wife to admire what he accomplishes with his life, and especially for her. We need one another’s empathy over our trials, and understanding over our shortcomings.

Our mate likes to know that we find him/her physically attractive and that we appreciate their choice of hair and clothing styles. This makes us feel more secure and reassured of our attraction and love toward one another. Wives need to feel cherished, and husbands like to be respected.

Really paying attention to our spouse, looking into one another’s eyes, and chatting about what is on our mind – even if it is just for a short period of time every day, helps us to feel validated and shows our concern for each other. We assure our mate of our love for them alone, and we care about his/her concerns.

Date nights do not need to be comprised of expensive dinners and elaborate tickets to art, music, literature or sporting events. A simple meal cooked together and eaten at the dining room table, watching a TV movie afterward or taking a stroll around the neighborhood, or giving each other reciprocal massages may be even more effective.

Love and loyalty motivate us to stay faithful to one another. This protects and strengthens our commitment to each other. We feel more secure and joyful with life in general, when we know that we are unconditionally loved, and that our mate is supporting us and watching out for us.

Prayer:
Father God, give us Your Agape love for each other, and help us to feel compassion for one another and to be attentive to each other’s interests. Help us to honestly share with each other what is bothering us at home, at work, at church and in our community. Teach us not to tease or make fun of each other, so that we can be vulnerable with one another without fear.

No one wants to fear belittlement, rejection or abandonment; so help us to decrease our mate’s stress by showing sympathy toward their issues inside and outside of our relationship. Teach us how to share with our mate what is bothering us about one another, and to brainstorm together to find alternative behaviors that will not trouble us.

Thought for the Day:
Taking an interest in our spouse’s interests makes them feel valued and affirmed; when we put everyone else’s needs above the needs of our spouse, we send a signal that others are more important to us than our marriage relationship; so, solving these issues together makes us better partners, community members, and parents.